Say It Ain't So, Moe

THE REAL DIRT

October 03, 1993|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Moe died last week, and it's my fault. I drove him to his grave which, in Moe's case, was the local dump.

There, I tossed his lifeless body onto the junk pile after removing a few of Moe's useful body parts, like the wheels, deck and spark plug.

Lawn mowers make good organ donors, and Moe was no exception.

I sold everything but the spark plug, Moe's heart, which I saved as a keepsake and placed in a jar in the garden shed.

Moe was one of a kind.

A cranky old power mower, he could be noisy and stubborn and gassy at times. But Moe always came through in the end.

Waking him was a chore. Perhaps it was all those safety features that kept him from starting. Moe liked to sleep in on weekends, and could seldom be roused before noon. Even then, it took longer to start Moe than it takes some folks to mow their entire lawn.

Once Moe finally got going, we mowed with a vengeance. I couldn't stop Moe because he would refuse to start again for several hours, or until just before a thunderstorm, whichever came first.

I'll miss how he sputtered and fussed when I yanked his chain . XXTC . how he balked at cutting tall grass . . . and how his favorite prank was to run out of gas at the farthest spot in the yard.

I swear Moe did it to torment me.

It may have been payback for all the abuse I heaped on Moe in the last 12 years. Every mower hits an occasional rock or tree root, but Moe struck some pretty rough objects lurking in the grass, including baseballs, firewood and the dog's water bowl. Also old shoes, the garden hose and a dead bird.

Once, Moe even ran over another mower, a rusty old model that was half-buried in the ground.

I don't always watch where I'm mowing.

None of this did Moe's blade much good. By summer's end each year, the mower could barely cut grass. Moe's doctor, a repairman named Graham, was alarmed at how often he had to sharpen the blade.

"You must have run over everything but the kitchen sink," Graham once said. I hadn't the heart to tell him that Moe had, in fact, on that same day nicked our old kitchen sink, which was sitting on the lawn awaiting a trip to the dump.

Somehow, Moe survived all those scrapes. He struck fence posts and swing sets and bicycles and still bounced back, good as new. He seemed indestructible in spite of the stooge who owned him.

Nothing could stop Moe -- until he ran up against a piece of the septic tank.

Tragedy struck at dusk, as I rushed to finish mowing the front lawn. In my haste, I overlooked the cap for the septic tank, a thick metal lid that sits 3 inches above ground.

Erma Bombeck was right. The grass is greener over the septic tank. It's also taller there. In the waning light, I didn't see the metal cap. But Moe found it as if guided by a magnet.

There was an awful crunch as Moe struck metal, followed by an eerie silence. The mower stalled. The neighbors stared.

I smiled sheepishly and tried to start the engine. Surely, Moe was OK. But nothing happened. I tried again, and again. All Moe could manage was glub-glub-glub. I patted him on the head and wheeled him into the shed. All Moe needed was a good night's rest and he'd be fine.

I even let him sleep until midafternoon.

But Moe was not fine. In fact, when I tried to start him, he sounded worse than ever. He was hissing and gurgling and making such a fuss that I took him right to the shop, where Graham gave me the bad news.

Moe's crankshaft was damaged beyond repair.

"Does he really need one?" I asked. Perhaps the crankshaft was one of those parts Moe could live without, like a gall bladder.

No luck. Moe needed major surgery, about $200 worth. Graham voted against it.

"Age is a factor," he said. "This mower is getting old."

Reluctantly, I agreed. It was a tough decision. Moe and I had been inseparable on hundreds of weekends. We trimmed the lawn nearly 400 times. We spent 800 hours together.

Sure, we hit rocks and wood and metal as we bounced around the yard like a pinball. But Moe never struck a butterfly or a honeybee, and he always braked for buttercups.

Gosh, I'm going to miss him.

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